After the Omaha Lancers had what coach Mike Aikens called one of his team’s worst performances of the season on Friday, a 3-1 home loss to last place Sioux City, Aikens wasn’t sure how his team would respond 24 hours later against first place Sioux Falls.
But he liked what he saw.
After Omaha let a 2-0 lead slip away late in the third period, Jake Randolph got the game-winning goal for the Lancers with 38 seconds remaining as Omaha held off the Stampede 3-2 in front of 3,921 at Ralston Arena.
“That was drastically different than last night,” Aikens said.
“I thought our effort and intensity were really good. The last 10 minutes I thought we started to play a little tight like nobody wanted to make a mistake and then we stopped moving our feet and gave up some chances.”
Trailing 2-1 with less than four minutes remaining, Todd Skirving tied the game at 2-2 when he raced in on goal from the left wing and flipped the puck under the crossbar past Omaha goaltender Alex Lyon.
But Jake Randolph was able to get the game-winner less than three minutes later when he took a pass from Tyler Moy at the side of the net and spun as he initially shot the puck.
The rebound came off Sioux Falls goaltender Charlie Lindgren’s body in mid-air, and Randolph batted a line drive into the goal for his 10th of the season.
“We happened to get a bounce there at the end, and Randolph scores a hard-working and gritty goal around the net, and that turns out to be the difference,” Aikens said.
Lyon made 27 saves on 29 shots to get the win for the Lancers.
Omaha opened the scoring 14:08 into the first period following a Sioux Falls turnover.
Connor Chatham skated in alone on Lindgren and was initially stopped, but Lindgren left a rebound for Tyler Hynes. Hynes jumped on the puck and knocked it past Lindgren to notch his fourth goal of the year and put the Lancers up 1-0.
It was the 28th time in 49 games that the Lancers have scored first this season. Omaha now owns a 21-7 record when lighting the lamp first.
The Lancers had plenty of time to sharpen their penalty-killing skills in the first period as they were forced to extinguish eight minutes of Sioux Falls power-play time, including a four-minute penalty by Luca Frigo for checking from behind.
Frigo also received a game ejection for the hit.
The Stampede ended the opening period 0 for 4 on power-play opportunities and trailing 1-0.
Drew Melanson’s ninth goal of the season gave Omaha a 2-0 advantage at 11:15 of the second period as he took a cross-ice pass from Matias Cleland and banged it home from close range.
Sioux Falls cut the Lancer lead to 2-1 with less than four minutes remaining in the second period following a collision at center ice.
Zeb Knutson came away with the puck and passed it ahead to Dennis Kravchenko, who had teamed up with C.J. Franklin on a Stampede 2-on-1.
Kravchenko drove hard down the right wing before deking and snapping the puck past Lyon for Kravchenko’s 16th goal of the year.
The Lancers return to Ralston Arena on Wednesday to take on Sioux City.
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